This guest post was submitted by Minot resident Roscoe Streyle.
In the debate over the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, it’s time to recognize that Tourism is a massively important industry in North Dakota and dollars invested in promoting and expanding the tourism opportunities will return the amount invested many times over.
Tourism is one of the largest industries in North Dakota. It supports 3,000 businesses, 42,614 jobs and over $3 billion in visitor spending. A dollar invested in tourism returns over one hundred dollars back. North Dakota spends a fraction on tourism budget vs. what SD, MT, WI and MN spend, ranking 43rd in the nation. The Legislature has consistently underfunded the Tourism Department budget. The department is one of the best run departments in all of State Government. It makes no logical sense to not fund this department and give it the tools it needs to promote North Dakota.
One of North Dakota’s great assets is its four seasons. Whether it’s the badlands of Western ND, Medora Musical, Lake Sakakawea, Lake Metigoshe, the amazing ND State Parks, fishing on Devils Lake, deer hunting, goose or duck hunting in central flyway, pheasant hunting in Richardton or Mott, the local park in every community, International Peace Gardens, the Missouri River, world class golf courses, skiing in Walhalla or Bottineau, snowmobile trails, ND State Fair, or even Lawrence Welk’s home.
North Dakota has so many great tourism activities, but we lack what I would consider world class destination pieces. Yes, we have that with hunting and fishing in general, but that’s about it. North Dakota is the greatest place to live in America. Why aren’t we as a State doing more to promote our great State and its assets? Economic diversification is critical to long-term success and tourism must be one of the areas we prioritize. Now is the time to take the North Dakota experience to a whole new level.
Let’s do something that no other state has done. Let’s help to build the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora. This project is more than a library in the traditional sense. It’s a destination for all North Dakotans to visit, all history loving or curious Americans to learn about a man who changed the country. A man who called North Dakota his second home and said, “It was here that the romance of my life began.” This man is on Mount Rushmore for a reason. This centerpiece and showcase to his legacy fits perfectly geographically and logically in North Dakota. The library would consist of two wings, one with presidential papers, archive, etc. and one positioned as a museum of his entire life. In case you didn’t know, North Dakota is home to the world’s largest digital archive of Teddy Roosevelt information.
Instead of saying, “it’s too much money”, “who would travel to Medora”, “Legislature has no business funding it”, “it’s a private project”, “because the Governor supports it I won’t” or whatever excuse you can come up with as an objection to the project, let’s instead think big, bold, visionary and #Legendary.
This is truly an incredible opportunity to invest $50 million of the Legacy Fund’s earnings, which amounts to less than 1% of the Legacy Fund’s $5.6 billion total (and growing!), that will drive an additional $100 million of private investment into our state while attracting visitors for generations to come. It’s estimated that 100,000 or more visitors would visit it yearly, making it one of the biggest attractions in North Dakota.
Finally, let’s remember the TR Foundation needs to raise 2/3 or $100 million dollars of the project. The State would have no other commitments or on-going expenses for the project. Again, tourism is an extremely important industry in North Dakota, and investing in the promotion and expansion of tourism opportunities will have great benefits for our state.